PICK UP YOUR CROSS

MUSINGS – December 11, 2018

PICK UP YOUR CROSS

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Mark 15:21
A man named Simon from the city of Cyrene was coming into Jerusalem from his home in the country. He was the father of Alexander and Rufus. As he was about to pass by, the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.

Who was this man, Simon, whose name and those of his sons is included in this narrative? The Bible sheds no further light than that which is given here. However since the names of the sons are given, it can be sent y assumed that they were known by the original readers.

I did a Google search and found this information.

Cyrene was located in northern Africa in eastern Libya. A Greek city in the province of Cyrenaica, it had a Jewish community where 100,000 Judean Jews had been forced to settle during the reign of Ptolemy Soter (323–285 BC) and was an early center of Christianity.

The Cyrenian Jews had a synagogue in Jerusalem, where many went for annual feasts. Some interpret the passage as indicating that Simon was chosen because he may have shown sympathy with Jesus. Others point out that the text itself says nothing, that he had no choice, and that there is no basis to consider the carrying of the cross an act of sympathetic generosity.

Mark 15:21 identifies Simon as “the father of Alexander and Rufus”. Tradition states that they became missionaries; the inclusion of their names may suggest that they were of some standing in the Early Christian community at Rome. It has also been suggested that the Rufus (in Greek: Ῥοῦφον or Rhouphon) mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:13 is the son of Simon of Cyrene. Some also link Simon himself with the “men of Cyrene” who preached the Gospel to the Greeks in Acts 11:20.

Whoever he may have been, Simon certainly did not know when his day began that he would be called upon to carry a cross. Likewise, we never know when a figurative cross may be ours to carry. Troubles seldom come upon us with prior warning. We must always be prepared to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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LONG LIVE THE KING OF THE JEWS

MUSINGS – December 10, 2018

LONG LIVE THE KING OF THE JEWS

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Mark 15:15-20
Pilate wanted to satisfy the people, so he freed Barabbas for them. But he had Jesus whipped and handed over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus into the courtyard of the palace and called together the whole troop. They dressed him in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown, and placed it on his head. Then they began to greet him, “Long live the king of the Jews!” They kept hitting him on the head with a stick, spitting on him, and kneeling in front of him with false humility. After the soldiers finished making fun of Jesus, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

At last Jesus is greeted as King of the Jews, which is the same as the term translated as Messiah. But it is not by the Jewish people. It is by the Roman soldiers. And it not in earnest but mockingly. Dressed in a robe fit for a king and given a crown of thorns they kneel before him in contempt.

Little did they know that He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, death on a cross. This is why God has given him an exceptional honor– the name honored above all other names– so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will kneel and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:8-11)

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CRUCIFY HIM!

MUSINGS – December 09, 2018

CRUCIFY HIM!

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Mark 15:1-14
Early in the morning the chief priests immediately came to a decision with the leaders and the scribes. The whole Jewish council decided to tie Jesus up, lead him away, and hand him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, I am,” Jesus answered him. The chief priests were accusing him of many things. So Pilate asked him again, “Don’t you have any answer? Look how many accusations they’re bringing against you!” But Jesus no longer answered anything, so Pilate was surprised. At every Passover festival, Pilate would free one prisoner whom the people asked for. There was a man named Barabbas in prison. He was with some rebels who had committed murder during a riot. The crowd asked Pilate to do for them what he always did. Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to free the king of the Jews for you?” Pilate knew that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him because they were jealous. The chief priests stirred up the crowd so that Pilate would free Barabbas for them instead. So Pilate again asked them, “Then what should I do with the king of the Jews?” “Crucify him!” they shouted back. Pilate said to them, “Why? What has he done wrong?” But they shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

The Jews were a conquered nation and we’re not allowed by Rome to use capital punishment. Do even though the Jewish Council had convicted Jesus if blasphemy, which was punishable by death, they could not carry out the execution. That is why they took him to Pontius Pilate who was the Roman governor of Judaea.

Pilate gave the Council and the Jewish people a choice, he would release one prisoner at their request. Who did they want released? They chose a murderer named Barabbas. He then asked the mob what he should do with Jesus. They responded crucify him. They didn’t say exicute him. They wanted him crucified.

Crucifixion was s punishment considered especially humiliating by the Romans reserved in general for slaves and highway robbers. Had the Sanhedrin and the crowd not demanded crucifixion, Jesus, under Roman law, would have most likely have been stoned to death, which would have been less humiliating and quicker.

So great was their hate for Jesus that they chose the cruelest death possible. And in this act the complete what Isaiah predicted hundreds of years earlier. (53:7-8)
He was abused and punished, but he didn’t open his mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was like a sheep that is silent when its wool is cut off. He didn’t open his mouth. He was arrested, taken away, and judged. Who would have thought that he would be removed from the world? He was killed because of my people’s rebellion.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

BRAVERY IN WEAKNESS

MUSINGS – December 08, 2018

BRAVERY IN WEAKNESS

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Mark 14:66-72
Peter was in the courtyard. One of the chief priest’s female servants saw Peter warming himself. She looked at him and said, “You, too, were with Jesus from Nazareth!” But Peter denied it by saying, “I don’t know him, and I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” He went to the entrance. Then a rooster crowed. The servant saw him. Once again she said to those who were standing around, “This man is one of them!” Peter again denied it. After a little while the men standing there said to Peter again, “It’s obvious you’re one of them. You’re a Galilean!” Then Peter began to curse and swear with an oath, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” Just then a rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered that Jesus said to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” Then Peter began to cry very hard.

I’ve heard so many times about Peter denying Jesus that I totally missed an important fact: Peter was there at the temple. The others had abandoned Jesus and gone into hiding. But Peter was there. Even after the servant girl accused him the first time, he stayed near his Master. Again she saw him and called attention to him and he denied Jesus, but he still stayed near. A third time he is recognized as being a Galilean and a follower of Jesus. If he was recognized by his accent, that means that he had been talking, probably trying to get information on how the trial was going. Again, he was there.

Previously, when reading this section of scripture, I’ve always focussed on Peter’s weakness, his betrayal. But now I see that he was the bravest of Jesus’s followers even in his weakness. He was there. His remorse was so great that he cried and cried very hard.

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YES I AM

MUSINGS – December 07, 2018

YES I AM

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Mark 14:53-65
The men took Jesus to the chief priest. All the chief priests, leaders, and scribes had gathered together. Peter followed him at a distance and went into the chief priest’s courtyard. He sat with the guards and warmed himself facing the glow of a fire. The chief priests and the whole Jewish council were searching for some testimony against Jesus in order to execute him. But they couldn’t find any. Many gave false testimony against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some men stood up and gave false testimony against him. They said, “We heard him say, ‘I’ll tear down this temple made by humans, and in three days I’ll build another temple, one not made by human hands.'” But their testimony did not agree even on this point. So the chief priest stood up in the center and asked Jesus, “Don’t you have any answer to what these men testify against you?” But he was silent. The chief priest asked him again, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “Yes, I am, and you will see the Son of Man in the highest position in heaven. He will be coming with the clouds of heaven.” The chief priest tore his clothes in horror and said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? You’ve heard him dishonor God! What’s your verdict?” All of them condemned him with the death sentence. Some of them began to spit on him. They covered his face and hit him with their fists. They said to him, “Prophesy!” Even the guards took him and slapped him.

Illegally arrested and illegally tried. The “verdict” was decided long before this mockery of a trial began: The chief priests and the whole Jewish council were searching for some testimony against Jesus in order to execute him.

Many lies were told that night but one truth rang out: Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “Yes, I am. The truth was told but they couldn’t handle the truth. Instead of the truth setting him free it convicted him.

Many today refuse to accept Jesus for who he claims to be. But millions of witnesses over the last two thousand years have testified that he is their Lord and savior, the one true Messiah.

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THE ARREST

MUSINGS – December 06, 2018

THE ARREST

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Mark 14:42-52
Get up! Let’s go! The one who is betraying me is near.” Just then, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve apostles, arrived. A crowd carrying swords and clubs was with him. They were from the chief priests, scribes, and leaders of the people. Now, the traitor had given them a signal. He said, “The one I kiss is the man you want. Arrest him, and guard him closely as you take him away.” Then Judas quickly stepped up to Jesus and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Some men took hold of Jesus and arrested him. One of those standing there pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the chief priest’s servant. Jesus asked them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as if I were a criminal? I used to teach in the temple courtyard every day. But you didn’t arrest me then. But what the Scriptures say must come true.” Then all the disciples abandoned him and ran away. A certain young man was following Jesus. He had nothing on but a linen sheet. They tried to arrest him, but he left the linen sheet behind and ran away naked.

An armed mob came to arrest the Lamb of God. He was a public figure, always in the Temple or the synagogues, never hiding but confronting those so called religious and civil leaders. And yet they set upon him at night when he was at prayer. How they must have feared him to come in great numbers and armed with weapons if war.

They may not have believed that he was the long awaited Messiah, but they had witnessed his miraculous power and feared it. I’m reminded of the old hymn lyrics, “He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free.” He could have slain them with a word. But he didn’t come to murder but to save … even those who came against him. In his dying breath he prayed, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

How great a love he had and has for all of us.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

THEY HAD ONE JOB TO DO

MUSING – December 03, 2018

THEY HAD ONE JOB TO DO

Mark 14:32-42
Then they came to a place called Gethsemane. He said to his disciples, “Stay here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him and began to feel distressed and anguished. He said to them, “My anguish is so great that I feel as if I’m dying. Wait here, and stay awake.” After walking a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible he might not have to suffer what was ahead of him. He said, “Abba! Father! You can do anything. Take this cup of suffering away from me. But let your will be done rather than mine.” He went back and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake for one hour? Stay awake, and pray that you won’t be tempted. You want to do what’s right, but you’re weak.” He went away again and prayed the same prayer as before. He found them asleep because they couldn’t keep their eyes open. They didn’t even know what they should say to him. He came back a third time and said to them, “You might as well sleep now. It’s all over. The time has come for the Son of Man to be handed over to sinners. Get up! Let’s go! The one who is betraying me is near.”

This person had one job to do, paint two parallel yellow lines in the middle of the road. For mile upon mile he had done just that. And then something happened. Maybe he dozed for just a moment or maybe he was distracted momentarily. For what ever the reason, he failed to do the one thing he was supposed to do.

Jesus gave Peter, James, and John one job to do, wait and stay awake. He had told them, “My anguish is so great that I feel as if I’m dying.” Three times he prayed and they slept. One simple job, and they failed … repeatedly!

Imagine for a moment that your best friend had just told you that they felt like they were dying and they asked you to wait and watch over them while they prayed. What would you do? Now put yourself in the other place. You are the one who feels like your dying. What would you expect of your friends?

I would expect to pray with my friend and have them pray with me. I certainly wouldn’t expect them to fall asleep when I was at my darkest hour.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams